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Parrots/Sweet Tempered Green Cheek Conure Has Started Biting


I got a Green Cheek Conure a little over a month ago.  He was hand raised by the breeder.  He's about three months old. When I first got him he was very shy, but after about a week he transformed into a total sweetheart. He loves to be held, have his head and beak scratched, and up until three days ago he NEVER bit.  His diet is the same as what the breeder had him on, and nothing has changed in his environment or in the way that I handle him. The only thing that I can think of is that I had a long day at work, and when I came home is he was in a pretty bad mood. This was three days ago, however, and his biting has been getting worse each day.  He has been pinning his eyes, bobbing his head up and down, flapping his wings, and exhibiting other aggressive behavior. However, he gets even more upset if I try to put him back in his cage, on the ground, or on his perch. He runs back and forth in his cage when he wants out (something he's always done), I open the cage and he comes right out and hops on my finger. And then bites.

I've heard that birds can become moody, so I'm hoping that maybe this is just a nippy phase that he's going through. What's the best way for me to handle it? Is there something else that could be wrong (in his environment, etc.) that I haven't thought to check for? Do you have any insight on what could have suddenly turned my sweet little guy into a biting machine?

Also; I never really had to train him NOT to bite because he really has never bitten before. Everyone I've talked to has given me different advice on how to train him (putting him in a quick time out, dropping my hand to throw off his balance, turning him over on his back, wrapping him in a towel, tapping him on the beak,etc.) What, in your opinion, IS the best way?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!

-------Hands‭ ‬are a common fear of caged birds.‭  ‬A hand entering their cage can sometimes launch them into a self-destructive thrashing around and screaming,‭ ‬even biting‭ ‬.‭  ‬This upsets the owner and doesn‭’‬t do anything for the relationship that should be harmonious.‭
I approach our new additions‭ (‬usually abused birds entering rescue/rehab‭) ‬an hour or so after tucking them in for nighttime.‭  ‬Their cages are covered on all sides,‭ ‬leaving just‭ ½‬ of the front uncovered so they can see out and feel secure.‭ ‬It also insures decent air circulation.‭   ‬The room light would be very dim,‭ ‬but not totally dark.‭ ‬Most birds have poor night vision,‭ ‬unless they‭’‬re nocturnal birds like owls and approaching them in total darkness is frightening to them.‭  
  At this time,‭ ‬whispering,‭ ‬putting a hand up against the cage and just holding it there is a start.‭  ‬Remember,‭ ‬keep it non-threatening‭ ‬and below their eye level.‭
  When you notice them calmly stretching a wing and leg slowly out to the side and back,‭ ‬mimic the action with your own arm slowly stretching out to the side and softly stay engaged vocally‭ (‬“what a good bird you are‭”‬,‭ ‬“that‭’‬s a pretty bird‭”‬,‭ ‬etc‭)‬.‭
  After just a few minutes of nice interaction,‭ ‬leave them be for their night and the next day use the same tone of voice and slow,‭ ‬calm movements around them.‭  
  Open the cage door‭ (‬as long as your bird is not panicking and will be safe if they escape,‭ ‬unable to get to places you cannot recover them from‭) ‬and offer your finger/hand just above the feet and gently touching at the breast area there‭  ‬say‭ ‬“step up‭”‬.‭  ‬This command is important to use every time so that when the bird hears it they know it‭’‬s time to be on hand/finger.‭  
 In an untamed bird there may be some biting and squawking,‭ ‬but if you can tolerate it until they are on hand,‭ ‬you‭’‬ve accomplished a very important step.‭  ‬Once up they usually stop biting where they‭’‬re perching‭ (‬your hand‭) ‬and if they don‭’‬t,‭ ‬giving them an‭ ‬“earthquake‭”‬ a gentle shaking of your hand,‭ ‬but not enough to dislodge them or cause them to feel insecure,‭ ‬will often distract them.‭  
 I‭’‬ve also found that walking quickly into a different room‭ (‬which isn‭’‬t hard to do with a big macaw chomping down on my arm like a pitbull‭) ‬will surprise them enough to stop.‭  ‬Suddenly,‭ ‬in new surroundings,‭ ‬I‭’‬m their best friend.‭  
  If you cannot get your bird to cooperate right away with hands,‭ ‬remember,‭ ‬you‭’‬ve got years ahead of you‭ ‬– it‭’‬s worth it to do this right.‭  ‬Try just placing your hand in the cage for a minute and letting them get used to it being there.‭  ‬Having a treat in hand will help make your fingers a positive thing.‭
  Continue the night whispering and no matter what,‭ ‬don‭’‬t give up.‭

When a bird first comes into my own home or any of the foster homes that are part of my rescue org,‭ ‬the first thing I implement is‭  ‬a‭ "‬sleep cage‭" ‬.‭ ‬ ‭ ‬It doesn't have to be a big cage,‭ ‬just one with a single perch‭ (‬preferably a rope perch which is easy on his feet and legs‭)‬,‭ ‬a source of water and a small amount of food.  ‭ ‬It should be in a quiet area,‭ ‬preferably with low light,‭ ‬but you'll be covering it anyway so the lighting isn't vital. ‭
‬  ‭ ‬If you can't do the sleep cage,‭ ‬at least establish a routine‭ ‬that includes covering at night. ‭ ‬If you typically start your day at‭ ‬8‭ ‬a.m.,‭ ‬put your companion ‭ ‬to bed around‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬during spring/summer,‭ ‬and as early as‭ ‬6‭ ‬or‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬in fall/winter months. ‭ ‬Try to be consistent.‭
‬ Make uncovering an event‭ ‬-‭ ‬be enthusiastic and greet the day‭ ‬-‭ ‬your bird will quickly know it's time to‭ "‬step up‭" ‬and go to the daytime area,‭ ‬or at least be uncovered and have breakfast served.  ‭ ‬I offer a whole grain meal of natural oatmeal with fruit‭ (‬banana,‭ ‬apple,‭ ‬raisins,‭ ‬mango,‭ ‬papaya,‭ ‬whatever is on hand‭)‬.  ‭ ‬Even if they don't eat a lot of it,‭ ‬at least they have the choice and you never know,‭ ‬one day you could be surprised.‭
‬ ‭ ‬Also allow for plenty of vocalizations at this time,‭ ‬in keeping with their nature.  ‭ ‬Birds stretch their‭ ‬vocal chords when they first greet the day‭ ‬-‭ ‬so join in with a song and let them scream if that's what they want to do.  ‭ ‬After a few minutes settle down to breakfast and they should too.‭
‬ ‭ ‬In order to transport a biting bird in and out of the cage‭ ‬layer a couple of old,‭ ‬thick socks onto your arms. ‭ ‬Cut the toe part off and pull them up over your forearm,‭ ‬then put your shirt down over them so it doesn't look unusual or frightening to the bird. ‭ ‬This way,‭ ‬when the bird bites it's going to pinch,‭ ‬but it won't be awful. ‭ ‬Once you stop reacting to the bites,‭ ‬the bird learns the action doesn't get a response and they'll usually stop. ‭
‬ ‭ ‬To pick up,‭ ‬make a light fist with your hand and tuck it down and under so the bird doesn't notice. ‭ ‬Bring your padded forearm in to the bird's chest,‭ ‬just above the legs and as you touch there,‭ ‬issue the‭ '‬step up‭" ‬command.  ‭ ‬Whenever you go to pick the bird up,‭ ‬use the command. ‭
‬ ‭ ‬When it's time for bed,‭ ‬make that an event like getting up in the morning. ‭ ‬Sing a‭ ‬song,‭ ‬allow for vocalizations and when you put him in the sleep cage offer a small treat like a grape or piece of a favorite nut.  ‭
‬ This should be in conjunction with plenty of out of cage time during the day,‭ ‬even if it's just to have your companion sitting on the sofa or chair with you while you watch t.v.‭ ‬or use the computer.  ‭ ‬You can see some more ideas and pictures here ‭ ‬‭ ‬ ‭
‬ It shouldn't take more than a‭ ‬1‭ ‬to‭ ‬8‭ ‬days‭ ‬to see a difference in behavior,‭ ‬so keep up the efforts and the consistency. ‭ ‬Remember,‭ ‬patience‭!
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Rev. Dr. S.August Abbott


Certified Avian Specialist; Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council member; Own animal rescue org; National Wildlife habitat #66378; bird care, nutrition & behavior consultant; International Assoc. of Animal Behavior Consultants Associate; National Wildlife Federation Leaders Club member; published bird care, info and behavior articles and guides. Ongoing education in exotic bird behavior and nutrition I can answer behavioral, nutritional, environmental, characteristic/personality questions as well as general health and health care. No animal emergency can ever be addressed on the internet. We cannot see your animal, perform an examination, provide necessary care or medication. Please value your companion for the priceless, living creature they are; not for what you might have paid for them.


Certified Avian Specialist. For more than 30 years I've worked with veterinarians, protective facilities, nature centers, preserves and on my own in providing care and education with regard to multiple animal species, including raptors (hawks, kestrals, owls, etc) and marsupials. In recent years I've focused on parrots, usually rescued from abusive or less than ideal situations and helping educate owners as to proper care. Expert in behavior studies and modification of problem behavior.

4AnimalCare is the organization I run as an animal ministry; World Wildlife Association, Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, National Wildlife Federation Leaders Club and more

Bird Talk Magazine articles about rescued and problem macaws.

Doctorate, Ordained Minister

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